|Venue: Birmingham Dates: Thursday, 9 November to Sunday, 12 November|
|Coverage: Live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website and app.|
“I’m absolutely loving being a mum,” Olympic trampoline gymnast Laura Gallagher says with a beaming smile, while cradling her daughter.
Although she quickly adds: “I’m just about managing some sleep!”
After an often “horrendous” pregnancy and 36-hour labour, which resulted in an unplanned Caesarean section, Edie arrived in January.
Gallagher is, by her own admission, “surprised” to now be in the position to make a major competitive comeback.
The World Championships in Birmingham, which run from 9-12 November, will be the 34-year-old’s first event since finishing 15th at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.
“Having Edie has taught me more than ever that time is precious and you don’t get it back,” she tells BBC Sport.
‘Becoming an Olympian after all those years of giving absolutely everything is something I’m incredibly proud of; it wasn’t the outcome I wanted though and I didn’t feel finished.
“My priorities have shifted now, obviously Edie’s well-being and quality-of-life always comes first, but I still have that desire to compete.”
‘We actually have an athlete mums WhatsApp group’
While returning to elite sport after pregnancy is not a new concept, with Liz McColgan, Paula Radcliffe and Kim Clijsters among those to claim major titles after becoming mothers, it was far less commonplace during the last century and early 2000s.
Olympic champions Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Dame Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker and Helen Glover, as well as international stars such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Serena Williams, have subsequently proved what is possible.
Gallagher herself drew inspiration from their competitive comebacks, as well as the knowledge and shared experiences of other British athletes who have given birth in recent years.
“We actually have an athlete mums WhatsApp group,” she says.
“We’ve got women from hockey, rowing, para-sport, athletics, judo, and what I learned very quickly is that with pregnancy, everyone has such a very individual experience.
“I was sick and felt horrendous most days, which limited what training I could do, but it was really useful to share experiences, get tips, know you’re all having similar feelings and are not alone.”
Backing pelvic floor health and ‘mummy MOTs’
According to research published in 2018, female athletes are 177% more likely to experience urinary incontinence symptoms than inactive women, with those involved in high-impact sports at the greatest risk.
Pregnancy and child birth can also further weaken the strength of a woman’s pelvic floor muscles.
Gallagher says it is not something she experienced directly, but is aware of “lots of athletes who struggle” with their pelvic floor health.
As such, she took precautions ahead of childbirth and before returning to trampolining in order to reduce her prospect of medical complications as a mother.
“We talk about it openly with female health specialists in British Gymnastics and they suggested I went to a pelvic health physiotherapist during my pregnancy, who I also saw afterwards,” Gallagher says.
“I was in labour for quite a long time, probably 36 hours as she just wasn’t moving, so there will probably have been some damage, but seeing the specialist, going to Pilates classes and taking up the ‘couch to 5k‘ was all really beneficial.
“Having a C-section probably helped me out a little bit too, even though it was not planned that way, but I’ll be honest the initial couple of weeks afterwards were quite brutal.”
‘They call it a mummy MOT’
Gallagher would like to see more girls and women made aware of the importance of pelvic floor health from a young age, not just around pregnancy.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s not something I enjoy talking about, but I do really feel is important,” she says.
“I actually run a baby gym group now and a number of mums who come in are nervous about not even jumping, but walking on the trampoline and joke about crossing their legs when they sneeze.
“We need to take away any embarrassment and communicate about these issues more openly.”
The Olympian added: “I think they call it a ‘mummy MOT’, which I had after giving birth and I’d like to see more women offered this check-up because it’s a real shame many don’t have access to the support which would really help them.”
Pushing for Paris 2024?
The World Championships in Birmingham represent the first opportunity for athletes to secure one of 16 berths – eight for men and eight for women – for their respective nations at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Gallagher finished sixth at her last Worlds in 2019, but is realistic about her prospects following a rapid post-pregnancy return and two years without a competition.
“I have a different routine now, so reaching the final might be a bit of a stretch, but I take a lot of confidence from where I’ve managed to get to in a short time,” she says.
“The prospects of a home World Championships really pushed me to come back and I feel a bit emotional actually about thinking about it.
“I underestimated the changes in my body from breast feeding with high impact training and fuelling for both in the right way.
“Mentally, I think the biggest challenge has been going with the flow, but I’ve learned a lot of life lessons this year and have no regrets.
“Next year, we’ll see how things progress and my body adapts, but I’m feeling comfortable and like I’ve got a lot more to give.”
The four-time world medallist laughs when asked about the prospect of continuing in her sport long enough for daughter Edie to not only watch, but appreciate what she is doing.
“Maybe, but I’m looking at her now and she hasn’t a clue what’s going on,” says Gallagher.
“I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to do, but I hope that that proves that you’re capable of more than you think.
“You’ve just got to celebrate the wins, no matter how small and if I can do it, others can too!”